Cockroach milk is the future food trend that'll haunt your dreams

Photo via Getty Images/ananaline

Cockroach milk is the future food trend that'll haunt your dreams

Bizarre foods

Cockroach milk is the future food trend that'll haunt your dreams

Caffeine addicts who’ve made the decision to go dairy-free have never had an easier time at the coffee shop milk-and-sugar station. Newfangled options like oat, coconut and hemp milk now keep company alongside old standards like soy and almond. But a buzzy new alternative milk might soon be providing some serious competition, as well as prevent me from ever leaving my bed again. Hold onto your cups: cockroach milk has arrived.

If you didn’t immediately slam your laptop shut and throw it into the ocean upon reading that last bit, congratulations. For those of you brave enough to stick it out, here’s what you need to know about the most horrifying food trend of our lifetime:

Cockroach milk is making a big comeback today, after we as a society failed to properly exterminate the potential coffee fixin’ two years ago. The idea of cockroach milk first dripped into the collective consciousness in 2016, when a deceiving-titled study named “Structure of a heterogeneous, glycosylated, lipid-bound, in vivo-grown protein crystal at atomic resolution from the viviparous cockroach Diploptera punctata” appeared in the Journal of the International Union of Crystallography.

The team behind the study found that milk produced by the Pacific beetle cockroach is nutritionally rich well beyond the limits of anything currently bottled up in a coffee shop refrigerator, containing three times the energy of an equivalent serving of dairy milk.

Why was the study published in a scientific journal about crystallization? Well, Pacific beetle cockroaches are unique in that females of the species – brace yourself – nurse their newborns with a fluid similar to the milk produced by mammals. As the young cockroaches age a bit, the mothers’ milk transforms into a crystalline substance within their digestive systems, which in turn provides dramatically increased levels of energy and nutrition for the growing babies.

Scientists are curious both about the ability of cockroach milk to someday nourish humans, and more generally, in the life-giving powers of milk transmuted into a crystalline form.

But if we’re going to ever be able to pick up a carton of cockroach milk at the grocery store, we’re first going to have to figure out how to milk roaches at scale (which sounds like the plot of a horror film). The scientists behind the study already have an idea of what that might look like. Clear your mind of any Meet the Fockers-esque visions of Ben Stiller milking roach after roach before Robert De Niro arrives at the breakfast table, because that’s not quite what they have in mind.

Instead, mass cockroach milking would likely involve introducing some sort of filter paper into the mother’s brood sac. To produce enough milk for even a cup of coffee, this process would have to be repeated on hundreds of cockroaches.

Further complicating matters, this lone species of live young-birthing cockroaches is tiny, even by cockroach standards, and it is indigenous only to the islands of Oceania in the South Pacific and Hawaii. Tiny cockroaches mean tiny amounts of milk production, perhaps keeping this abomination at bay for the time being.

Though cockroach milk coffee talk may be premature, that doesn’t mean food scientists and journalists aren’t already hard at work imagining a harrowing future overflowing with the stuff. Cockroach milk is already being called a superfood, a label we should all be sceptical of.

Still, cockroach milk appears to be a complete protein, joining the rarefied ranks of such buzzy foods as quinoa. But speaking of the South American super grain, quinoa milk is already a thing. So might we suggest sparing your fellow patrons in line from a sunrise fit of nausea by topping off your cup of joe with a splash of that instead?


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